TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — After a 51-day manhunt, police have made an arrest in four murders in the Seminole Heights area.
Late Tuesday night, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan and Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced the arrest of 24-year-old Howell Emanuel Donaldson III. Donaldson is charged with the murders of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton.
Donaldson was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon at the McDonald’s restaurant he works at in Ybor City.
According to the arrest report, a Tampa police officer was at the McDonald’s when a worker came up and said Donaldson had given them a McDonald’s food bag with a .40 caliber Glock inside of it. The witness also told the officer Donaldson said he wanted to leave the state. Donaldson had since left the restaurant, but returned and was detained by officers.
After being taken into custody, Donaldson gave officers permission to search his car and his phone and allowed them to examine his gun.
Donaldson told police he purchased the Glock firearm and ammunition from Shooter’s World on East Fletcher Avenue in September, according to the arrest report. He also told officers he was the only one with control of the firearm since the purchase.
During his conversation with officers, Donaldson said he was unfamiliar with the Seminole Heights neighborhood and didn’t have any association with anyone in the area.
When officers showed Donaldson evidence from the investigation that indicated his ties to the murders, Donaldson denied an explanation and requested an attorney’s presence.
Investigators who searched Donaldson’s cell phone found location data storage known as “significant locations.” The data revealed an address on East Frierson Avenue and indicated three days of recorded times and activities that correspond with when the first three murders happened.
Police say the three dates and times were Oct. 9 between 8:47 and 9:02 p.m, Oct. 11 between 8:18 and 8:42 p.m. and Oct. 19 between 7:51 and 7:58 p.m.
Call detail records were also obtained and showed that within minutes of the first three murders, Donaldson’s cell phone was geographically associated with cell towers in the area.
Officers searching Donaldson’s car found clothing similar to what was seen being worn by the suspect in surveillance video taken the night of the first murder. The arrest report says officers also found a suspected blood stain on the clothing.
FDLE officials who examined the gun said casings found at the scene of the first three murders were fired from the Glock firearm. The casings that were found at the fourth murder scene were not available, but police had previously identified them as being fired from the same gun as the first three murders. Police say the recovered Glock was loaded with a magazine containing five unfired rounds of SIG brand Smith and Wesson .40 caliber ammunition.
Investigators later discovered Donaldson had purchased the gun on Oct. 3 then picked it up on Oct. 7. He also bought a 20-round box of SIG brand Smith and Wesson ammunition on Oct. 7, according to arrest documents.
According to the arrest report, police found two fired SIG brand Smith and Wesson .40 caliber cartridge casings at the scene of Mitchell’s murder on Oct. 9. Mitchell was shot four times while waiting at a HART bus stop on North 15th Street near East Frierson Avenue.
Surveillance video was later released, showing a person walking in the area before the murder, then running from the scene within 25 seconds of the murder. A witness also called 911 right after the killing and told officers she saw a black male running away from the scene.
Two days later, on Oct. 11, police were called to North 11th Street near East Orleans Avenue for the report of gunshots in the area. Hoffa’s body was found Oct. 13 in an overgrown lot in the area. Police say she was shot three times and died. Five fired SIG brand Smith and Wesson .40 caliber cartridge casings were found at the scene.
According to new paperwork, one of Hoffa’s friends told police he was on his way to meet Hoffa on Oct. 11 around the same time the gunshots were reported. The friend said he never met up with her and never heard from her.
Naiboa was shot in the head and killed on Oct. 19, according to court paperwork. He was walking along North 15th Street when he was killed. Investigators found one SIG brand Smith and Wesson .40 caliber fired cartridge casing at the scene.
Almost a month later, Felton was shot and killed early in the morning on Nov. 14 while he was crossing North Nebraska Avenue. Police say they found four SIG brand Smith and Wesson .40 caliber fired cartridge casings at the scene.
A witness was able to describe the suspect in Felton’s murder as a black male about 6-feet tall with a thin, strong build. Police later released surveillance video from a nearby business.
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Fifty-one days and 5,000 tips later, Tampa police said they arrested the man responsible for the four serial killer murders in Seminole Heights.
“We are pleased to announce that tonight we will be making an arrest in the Seminole Heights murders,” said Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan during a late-night news conference.
Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, 24, was arrested after police received a tip from an Ybor City McDonald’s Tuesday afternoon.
Police said that one of Donaldson’s coworkers approached a police officer to say that he had a firearm in a bag. Once the officer looked inside, he called for backup.
They took Donaldson in for questioning after the gun was recovered from the scene.
Donaldson is accused in the murders of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton. They were shot within a half mile of each other. No connection between the victims was ever revealed.
Donaldson will be charged with four counts of first-degree murder.
“I am overjoyed right now. I am shaking right now because like I should be, my hands are sweaty, I am just very joyed that we caught this killer and got him off the streets,” said Robert Hoffa, Monica’s uncle.
“I would like to thank the people of Seminole Heights who have just been phenomenal in their support of our police department. Their patience and support and the way they have rallied behind the cops of Tampa has just been phenomenal. And the entire Bay Area the way they have supported the men and women of the Tampa Police Department in the neighborhood of Seminole Heights has just been awesome to see,” Dugan said.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the past two months was a struggle between good and evil.
“Tonight is the beginning of when justice will be served. And then the process will occur when this individual rots in hell,” he said
TPD detectives are still working on the case and the investigation continues.
Oct. 9, Benjamin Mitchell, 22 was killed at approximately 9 p.m.
Oct. 11, Monica Hoffa, 32, was shot. Her body was found on Oct. 13.
Oct. 19, Anthony Naiboa, 20, was shot at approximately 8 p.m.
Nov. 14, Ronald Felton, 60, was shot at approximately 4:51 a.m.
Nov. 28, Howell Emanuel Donaldson III was arrested and charged with each of the murders.